Written by Zoe Lance Adapted from a story by Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman
“Ozmo!” Smithy roared as he stalked through the dark warehouse, searching for his target. The warehouse was old and rustic. The dripping rainwater splashing on the ground reverberated around the building.
“You took your time.” Ozmo growled. Smithy turned to see the alien glaring at him with beady eyes.
“Can you blame me?” Smithy hissed angrily, glaring at the man. “You’ve just made me lock up a friend of mine and on top of that, you’ve made me steal- again!”
“Do you want to stay human or not?,” Ozmo growled. "Here, to make up for it, how about another stabiliser?” Ozmo produced an identical red device with a nozzle and played with it. “Tell you what, why don’t you apply the shot? Mark of trust!” Smithy eyed the shot warily before snatching it out of the alien’s hand, depositing the diamond into his clutches. “Excellent, excellent...”
“Yeah, whatever.” Smithy muttered as he applied the shot. He felt his illness alleviating. It a a more welcome sensation than having to listen to Ozmo’s awfully scripted diatribe - the alien had no pizzazz. Tossing the syringe away, he strode towards the door with purpose.
“And where are you going?” Ozmo squawked.
“Sarah Jane is still locked up in that vault, I have to help her.“
“Do you have to?”
“I can’t just leave her there!”
“No,” Ozmo sighed. “I’m just asking if you leave it a couple of hours. I have to power up the gravitons for the teleport.. "You know how I want to go home, don’t you?”
“Well, yes, but-”
“And you’ve been working with that old biddy for years. You guys are a team. Once a team, always one and all that. Why don’t we just...forget about this little incident?”
“You help her save the world all the time. I’m sure she won’t mind- just this once. Maybe you’ll laugh about this one day!”
“Well, yes. We’re a team.” Smithy realised “We always have been. All I’ve done is rescue a wayward traveller- and coincidentally secured a reward for myself- yes,” Smithy nodded resolutely, “yes, of course she’ll understand.”
“That’s the spirit!” Ozmo cried out sarcastically as he stomped off, leaving Smithy alone in the warehouse. The man stood in silence, mentally deliberating over what to do with himself, when he realised that he knew what he had to do, and smiled. He turned towards the warehouse doors and left with renewed purpose. Somewhere out there was a woman in need of rescuing, and he was capable of saving her.
Sarah Jane fiddled with her phone. It was useless, the battery was dead. She had been stuck in the vault for ages. Sky must be so worried. What’s worse, nobody had arrived to take her away or arrest her.
She would have to find a way to deal with the latter.
“No signal, no sonic, nobody can hear me-” Sarah Jane sighed hopelessly. “Oh, Mr Smith, what are you doing?!”
“Dinner as well? It’s not my birthday!” Carla exclaimed in surprise as added the finishing touches to her fifth Mojito of the week. “I thought we were having a quiet day in?”
“It’s a good thing I booked the restaurant then!” Smithy chuckled. He was stood in a red telephone box with a smile on his face. Carla attempted to protest but Smithy cut her off. “Carla, my dear, life’s for living and dinner is for eating. Don’t let either get cold!” Smithy exclaimed dramatically. “See you at eight!”
“Straight to voicemail again.” Sky remarked with a small growl as she dialled Sarah Jane’s number once again. She paced around the attic, ignoring the charred chassis and the worried stares of her two friends to the best of her ability. It was hard, remembering that Mr Smith wasn’t really gone and was actually a human being running around.
She couldn’t stop pacing. She was nervous, maybe even scared. Sarah Jane was never gone for so long unless she was the at the heart of an incident or something had happened to her phone- which were two surprisingly common incidents.
Sky sighed and sat down on the steps, unsure as to what she should do.
“Hey, don't be so down, Sky.” Rani smiled sadly. “I’m sure Sarah Jane will be back soon, you’re not to blame. If anything, it’s Smithy that should be blamed.”
“Oh, you’ve changed your tune.” Clyde scoffed, glaring at Rani. “What happened, Miss Mediator, finally seeing how wrong you were?”
“Oi, that’s not fair!” Rani retorted. “You were just angry at him for fancying your mum!”
“That’s not true!”
The two resumed their bickering and Sky rolled her eyes, trying to reach Sarah Jane once again. For two teenagers who spent their days protecting the world, they argued a lot.
“Well, you were the one who wanted us to be friends!” Clyde retorted.
“Yeah, well, what else have you told him, hm?” Rani asked, boring her eyes into him. “How do we know you haven’t been confiding secrets about us to Mr Smith?”
“Stop it!” Sky cried out, reaching her boiling point. Her two friends were having petty arguments and Sarah Jane still wouldn’t pick up her phone. “Don’t you see that this isn’t important now? We have to find Sarah Jane!”
"Sorry," Clyde and Rani murmured quietly. Sky turned away fro them, looking at her phone anxiously.
Sarah Jane was not a damsel in distress. She actively despised the thought. It was just a way to bring women and their self-esteem down further. She was resourceful, and she had resources at her disposal. Flipping the lid of her wristwatch scanner, she placed it next to the steel vault door.
“Come on, come on…aha!” Her face fell as she noted the readings. Approximately four hours.
It appeared that she was going to be waiting for quite some time.
Smithy and Carla were seated in a fancy restaurant. Soft classical music drifted along and filled the room with its dulcet tones. Couples dined together with fancy cutlery and plates, beaming at each other, and it was quite possibly the first time in her life that Carla felt pampered.
A waiter approached them with a silver platter as Carla observed the other couples in the room. Most were dressed in all sorts of fancy garb and she felt a little ridiculous sitting in her old dress. She flushed slightly in embarrassment, hoping Smithy hadn't noticed. Thankfully, he was busy beaming down at the silver platter as the waiter removed the lid to reveal their starter plates. A small smile graced Carla’s lips.
“A bottle of champagne, monsieur.” Smithy ordered with his patented charming smiles. “The Crystal!” He noticed Carla’s confused glance and chuckled nervously. “Aha, private joke.”
Carla giggled. She was so happy she could burst. There had been relatively few times she had felt so elated and breathless, one of these momentous occasions being the day Clyde had been born, and it was a potent feeling.
“Are you okay, Carla?” Smithy asked in concern. Carla smiled and nodded.
“Yes, yes, of course, don’t worry about me. It’s just…” she sighed. “You’ll find it silly.”
“Well, that cannot be determined until you tell me what’s bothering you.” Smithy pointed out. “Come on, out with it!”
“I’m just surprised, is all.” She chuckled sadly. “I mean, with Paul, my old husband, I didn’t get this much. I couldn’t really expect much at all. No fancy restaurants, nothing to spoil me. I could only ever expect battered sausages and a couple cans of Tizer, so, yeah...it’s nice. Thank you. I don’t think I’ve quite met anyone like you.”
Smithy nodded, his confident demeanour replaced by a calmer, more sensitive aura. He sat up straight in his chair and gingerly place his hand on top of Carla’s surprising her.
“To be honest with you, Carla, just lately, I’ve started to see life in a very different way.” Smithy told her in a quiet tone that attracted her attention. It was sincere, which she appreciated more than she cared to admit. “All those year I was working, facts and figures, data-”
“You did IT?” Carla interrupted, surprised. “Like, working with computers?”
“You could say that.” Smithy agreed. “But now I can see- I neglected all the important things...fun, friendship, spending time with someone special…”
“Oh, I’m nothing special.” Carla dismissed, a low, self deprecating chuckle bubbling from her lips.
“Clyde certainly thinks you are.” Smithy commented.
“Oh, Clyde would never say something like that!” Carla laughed, turning a vibrant shade as embarrassment enveloped her at the thought.
“You’d be surprised. He thinks the world of you, and who can blame him?”
Smithy allowed his comments to sink in, partly because the waiter was beginning to approach them with more silver platters in tow.
“I can’t stand it!” Sky exclaimed suddenly, rising from her seat and stomping over to the two teenagers. “We can't just sit here and wait! We have to do something!"
“Well, I get that, Sky, but there’s nothing we can do,” Rani pointed out. “For now at least. We don't have Mr Smith, we can't search for her. She could be anywhere in London!”
"We may not have Mr Smith....” Sky furrowed her eyebrows, deep in thought. "But there are things we do have!" Sky practically flew out of the attic, leaving her two friends confused in her wake. Clyde and Rani gaped at the open door wordlessly until Sky poked her head back in. “Come help me!”
“What are you up to?” Clyde asked.
“There’s no time to talk.” Sky answered brusquely. “Come on!”
A couple of minutes later, the attic had been completely reformed. Newspapers were stacked high on the computer desk- courtesy of Rani procuring multiple from the local library and Haresh's own collection- and the portable TV that Clyde and Sky had carried from Luke’s bedroom had been plugged into Mr Smith’s computer chassis. It was currently streaming the news channel.
“Rani, read the newspapers.” Sky ordered, “Clyde, check the news channels on the TV, she left the room to fetch the kitchen radio.
“She’s the new one and she’s taken over!” Clyde muttered to Rani, who shot him a glare.
“Why are you telling me?” she sneered.
“Stop arguing!” Sky snapped as she walked back in with the radio in hand.
“I don’t get what this is all for, Sky,” Clyde admitted, eyeing the new report on TV.
“Mr Smith is gone and somebody needs to do his job, the hard way,” Sky replied. “You said that we couldn't do his job because we're not supercomputers, but we have all these resources, we should use them. Do our job. We have to find Sarah Jane!”
“Yeah...yeah, you’re right.” Rani agreed with a firm nod. “Well, what we are waiting for?”
With that, the peace in the attic was drowned out by a hubbub of voices as the group listened and read intently for clues or signs of an alien incursion or Sarah Jane’s location.
“About time!” Sarah Jane exclaimed as the vault door slowly slid open and two burly looking guards glared at her. Sarah Jane paid them no mind, her eyes quickly drifting over their sidearms before she resumed her tirade. “I need a phone charger, a direct line to UNIT High Command, a copy of your CCTV footage, and a cup of tea wouldn’t go amiss.” The guards exchanged a silent look before one of them approached her and slid a pair of handcuffs around her wrist and locking them in place. Sarah Jane winced and admitted, “or we could do this the hard way.”
Before the guards were able to cart her away for questioning, a pair of knives sliced through the air and made contact with their throats. The two guards collapsed to the floor, twitching sporadically before crumpling motionlessly.
Sarah Jane gasped at the sight, her leather jacket stained with patches of blood. Her eyes latched onto the culprit: a man, standing nonchalantly in the doorway of the Maximum Security area twirling a knife in his hand, studying her. He had a curious expression etched on his face His eyes blazed with such intensity that Sarah Jane knew she would have to keep her guard up around him, even if she was currently handcuffed and unable to do anything useful.
“You’re really old,” the man informed her, causing Sarah Jane to falter.
The waiters pulled the lids off the platters to reveal a rather spectacular meal. A terrine of confit free range chicken, ham hock, savoy cabbage with sauce gribiche and, to Carla’s surprise, Smithy was thinking about Krispy Kreme doughnuts for dessert.
“Wow!” Carla gasped as she examined the range of food, her stomach rumbling perilously. She hadn’t realised she was so hungry. Picking up her knife and fork, Carla began to eat, neatly mirrored by Smithy. The pair sat in comfortable silence as they salivated at the taste of their meal. “This is amazing! Bit much, though. I wonder if I’ll be able to finish it all!”
“Little tip for you, Carla,” Smithy leaned in conspiratorially, a trail of sauce staining the bottom of his lip. “Stop eating before you become physically sick, so much more enjoyable.”
Carla couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her. It wasn’t a brisk, even laugh, it was a beautiful, uncontrollable laugh straight from the pit of her stomach. She hadn’t properly laughed at something for so long, she had forgotten what it was like.
“Thank you,” she sighed when she sobered, reaching over to touch his hand. “For everything.”
They sat like that, simply staring at each other adoringly. A moment so peaceful and tranquil for them both that was perhaps the first time in a very long time. Such a moment was never meant to last- a lesson Carla had learned early in her life- as a brisk cough broke the peace and sent them crashing back into reality. They looked up to see the maitre d’ looking down at them with an ambivalent expression.
“Very sorry,” the man spoke in his thick french accent, “A très urgent telephone appeal for monsieur Smith.”
“For me?” Smithy was taken aback.
“Oh, I see.” Smithy nodded, suspicion gnawing at his insides. As the maitre d’ skulked off, Smithy turned to Carla with a puzzled frown. “Please do excuse me, Carla, I was certain I had finished everything and-”
“Oh, it’s fine, honestly.” Carla smiled warmly. “Go and take your phone call. I’ll still be here.”
“Thank you.” Smithy said before he walked out of the dining area and towards the telephone in the wall, suspicious. Nobody would be calling him, Ozmo said he had finished everything and the caped do-gooders didn’t know of his location.
The kitchen doors were closed, though that didn't mean Smithy couldn't hear that shouting on the other end as the cooks frenzied to get everything prepared in time. He picked up the phone and was greeted with silence on the other end. Smithy frowned, confused. The suspense didn’t last. Ozmo’s hologram flickered to life, grinning inanely.
“What the hell do you want now?!” Smithy snapped, furious. “I’ve done everything! You’re meant to be gone, anyway. What are you doing here? Oh, it doesn’t matter, what do you want!?”
“Let me explain, mate!” Ozmo chittered, holding up a hand to silence him. Smithy conceded, crossing his arms. “The teleport gravitons are all wrong. They’re not calibrated properly, they’re all wrong!”
“No, this wasn’t what we agreed-” Smithy’s rant was cut short by an all too familiar crackling. He looked down to see his hand crackling and growled, “What is the meaning of this?”
“Aww, sorry, mate!” Ozmo apologised insincerely. “The shot must have been from a bad batch, Ah well, what can you do? My eyesight’s rubbish in this planet’s atmosphere! Come on, mate, I only need you for half an hour at the very least!”
Smithy paused, conflicted. He turned and looked through a crack in the door at Carla waiting patiently for his return. He wanted to refuse, run back to her and resume their dinner. It was going perfectly, but his hand was too far gone. It was spasming and flickering wildly.
“Fine!” he snapped angrily. “Half an hour, and I want the proper shot this time!”
“Course.” Ozmo dismissed as Smithy stomped out through the back door to meet him. His eyes flickered to Carla, who continued to wait. “Oh, I am sorry to break up your romantic little evening.” he smirked, “but don’t you worry, love- this really is the last job for good old Smithy!”
“Excuse me!” Carla cried out, beckoning the maitre d’ over. “My friend- is he still on the phone?”
“No, madame.” the man replied. “I believe he has just left.”
“I presume you will not be wanting to see the dessert menu, madame, shall I fetch the bill?”
Carla nodded, shattered and alone, not for the first time. She looked at the bowler hat and brolly Smithy had taken off when they had started their dinner, and then at a young couple the next table over sharing a kiss, and her face fell once more.
“Excuse me?” Sarah Jane gasped. She may have been afraid of this strange alien humanoid, but she was still insulted.
“No, seriously,” the man continued, seemingly ignoring the fact he was casually insulting her. He twirled the knife in his hand as if it was a baton. “You’re old. Old, old, old. Super old! Way too old to be Ozmo, anyway.”
“Yeah, keep up.” he scoffed. “And you’re definitely not a guard or I would have killed you. So, granny, who in the name of the Shadow Architect’s frizzy hair are you?”
“Sarah Jane Smith.” Sarah Jane proclaimed proudly. She had to hide her fear but she didn’t want to face the consequences of bravado. “But more to the point - who are you?”
“Sarah Jane Smith?” the man repeated, looking chastised. “Oh, great. She’s going to kill me.”
“Kai?” Sarah Jane repeated, confused.
“Yeah, that’s me.” Kai pointed at himself in introduction. “Kai- unwilling ambassador of the Shadow Proclamation, a bunch of losers who have nothing better to do than uphold the affairs of galactic law.”
“But you don’t have to work for them.” Sarah Jane pointed out. Kai laughed darkly, tossing the knife into the air and swiftly catching it.
“If only.” Kai sighed. His fingers twirled over the hilt of his knife and he pointed it at her, his expression completely reformed to suspicion. “I’ve heard great things about you. Your story resonates throughout history and, try as I might, I highly doubt you would rob a bank. It goes against everything. Why are you here?”
“My friend’s in trouble, I need to help him.”
“Your friend?” Kai stared at her, his expression puzzled. “Why would he need help? Was he here?”
Sarah Jane said nothing.
“He was, wasn’t he? And now he’s gone and left you to deal with the consequences. He’s an agent of Ozmo, I gather?”
“What does it matter to you?” Sarah Jane demanded defensively. Smithy may have found himself in bad company, but he was still her friend. She struggled against the handcuffs, but it was no use, they were constricted around her wrist. She was defenseless.
“I have the wonderful job of fulfilling whatever the Shadow Proclamation tell me to do, this is my mission: capture Ozmo and detain him. If your friend is assisting a wanted felon, I will put him down.”
“No, don’t you dare!” Sarah Jane exclaimed desperately, trying to wriggle out of her shackles. Kai studied her once again, his eyes fostering a colder hue.
“Maybe the stories were wrong after all.” Kai muttered. He fitted the knife back into its sheath and glared at her, bring his thumb and forefinger into front of him. “You better pray to some nonexistent God that you find him first, Sarah Jane Smith. You don’t want to know what’ll happen to him if I do. The race is on.”
In the blink of an eye, the enigmatic Kai was gone, and her handcuffs with him. Sarah Jane twisted and rubbed her hands soothingly, stepping over the bodies. She couldn’t mourn them or even look at them, she was far too terrified of what could happen to Smithy if she didn’t find him immediately.
She had work to do.
“He did what?!” Clyde roared down the phone, his grip tightening marginally. Rani and Sky briefly glanced at him before getting back to work, though they continued to eavesdrop.
“Oh, I dunno, he got a phone call and the next thing I know, he was gone!” Carla explained. Clyde couldn’t see her, but it was clear that his mother was upset. “He’s not over at Sarah Jane’s with you lot, is he? Did something come up?”
“No, mum, he’s not here,” Clyde refuted sadly, not wanting to crush his mother’s hope even more.
“You won’t tell anyone about this, will you?” Carla asked hopefully. “Don’t want to look like an even bigger idiot than I am…”
“I won’t. I promise.”
“See you later love. Don’t worry about me. I’m used to losers,” Carla whispered sadly, tears threatening to spill. She quickly disconnected the call. Her son didn’t need to hear her breakdown.
“I’m going to kill him.” Clyde swore, tightening his grip on his phone. “He’s been nothing but trouble!”
“Is your mum okay?” Rani asked worriedly from her position by the desk. Clyde’s head snapped up towards her, his eyes stormy and clouded by anger.
“You don’t need to know about my private business, Rani.” he retorted angrily. “This isn’t just about finding Sarah Jane anymore. We find her and Mr Smith, and when we do, I’m gonna-”
Sky shushed him loudly, shooting him a glare. The chastised Clyde conceded, embarrassed by his behaviour. Satisfied, Sky turned around and picked up the remote control, turning the volume up on a news report that was playing on the television.
“...recent break in at the Asquith Bank Vaults. There appear to have been signs of a struggle, and two guards have been reported dead.” A male news reader announced coolly.
“Look!” Sky pointed out. Rani and Clyde followed her gaze to Sarah Jane’s trademark vehicle, parked in the corner of the street where the news report was taking place. “Sarah Jane’s there!”
“We can confirm that a theft of a fine-cut diamond worth £1.5 million has been successful and police are now working to find the culprit and retrieve the valuable item.”
“Sarah Jane must have been there to stop the diamond from being stolen!” Sky deduced.
“It must have been Smithy.” Clyde concluded brusquely. “Why else would she have been in the area?”
“Oi!” Rani cut in, glaring at Clyde. “Yeah, you’re mad at him, we get it, but you’re forgetting that for everything Smithy is, he’s not a murderer!”
“Well, we’re not exactly Saints either,” Clyde retorted. “All the Slitheen we killed? We can’t just hold Smithy on a pedestal! He’s nuts! It’s pretty obvious he broke in and stole the diamond.”
“The diamond?” Sky murmured, a thought springing to mind. “Break in? There was a break in at a museum the night Smithy was out! If Clyde’s right, that must have been where he was!”
“Which robbery?” Rani inquired.
“The Mayan artefact from the Challis museum!” Sky exclaimed as she fished through a pile of alien objects. “A normal person couldn’t have pulled it off, it must have been Smithy! Aha!” With a triumphant flair, Sky pulled out a portable scanner. “We’ll start helping by looking in the museum. C’mon!” She ran out the door.
“That’s why she’s in charge.” Rani noted. “Listen, after all this...we need to talk.” Clyde nodded in agreement. With their argument put on hold, the two seniors left the attic and chased after their younger friend.
Smithy’s hand was still crackling. Clutching it helplessly, he staggered into the dirty warehouse, his strength slowly draining with each step. His skin was burning up, he wasn’t quite sure what was wrong.
“Ozmo?” Smithy croaked, almost stumbling over a crate in his feverish haze. His eyes were bleary, his ears rung and his nose was runny. He looked around aimlessly, searching for the strange alien. The low rumbling of a light switching on caught his attention, and soon enough Ozmo’s figure appeared, a beat down portal behind him.
“Get to work.” The Ozmoid demanded. He was always demanding nowadays and Smithy was starting to wonder if his comedic act was really an act. His bleary eyes were drawn to the gun in the alien’s hand, and Smithy knew he would have to fix the gravitons as quickly as possible. “Ain’t she a beauty?”
Smithy didn’t respond. He began to total the gravitons quickly and efficiently. The sooner he was finished, the sooner the Ozmoid could leave the Earth, and Smithy could be human forever. His work was quickly disrupted when his hand crackled again.
“This isn’t working,” Smithy sighed. “I need the stabiliser shot.”
“No, you don’t. Come on!” Ozmo urged. “You’ll work quicker this way!”
Smithy sighed. As much as he would like to be, he wasn’t in control of the situation.
“Sky, come on! We only have ten more minutes!” Clyde hissed, peering over the corner.
“I’m almost finished!” Sky replied, eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she fiddled with the scanner in the palm of her hands. Clyde and Rani had agreed to keep watch for any guards while she finished up her scan. The silence and tension between the pair was palpable.
“So, it’s come to this, eh?” Rani sighed, fed up with the silence. “Avoiding each other because of some secrets we didn’t tell each other?”
“Well, when you put it that way, it does sound pretty weird.” Clyde muttered. The two stared at each other, the corner of their lips tugging into a smile. The two shared a brisk laugh at their pettiness. “Especially since it wasn’t really your fault, it was Smithy’s. I’m...sorry, Rani.”
“Yeah, me too.” Rani apologised with a sad smile. “Trouble is, we’re always going to fight aren’t we? Isn’t that what mates do?”
“Yeah…” Clyde nodded, a frown marring his face. It was now or never. “Listen, Rani, I have something I have to tell you.”
“Yeah?” Rani looked at him expectantly.
“I’ve found something!” Sky explained, her scanner beeping rapidly. Clyde and Rani broke their gaze, embarrassed, and quickly crossed the hallway towards Sky.
“What is it, Sky?”
“Dymolectic energy!” Sky chirruped. “Traces of it! They’re usually connected to…”
“A matter relay!” Sarah Jane’s voice cried out. The trio of teenagers turned to see her grinning at them, her wristwatch scanner open. “Well done, Sky!”
“Sarah Jane!” Rani gasped. “What happened to you?”
“It’s a long story,” Sarah Jane scowled. “I’ve had a feeling about Smithy for a while now. Good thing he didn’t think to take off the tracker on his tie! Come on, we have to find that diamond!”
“...There.” Smithy panted, beads of sweat glistening off his forehead- he was starting to feel worse- as the gravitons whirred to life, a blue ethereal glow illuminating the warehouse. His eyes were drawn to the giant screen placed behind the lights, which was unnoticeable before without the proper lighting. Smithy held his tongue. He couldn’t question anything if he wanted to keep breathing.
“Ha ha!” Ozmo chittered. “I had my doubts, but you’ve proved yourself. Here,” he tossed a shot towards Smithy, who stumbled to catch it, “A proper one this time. You may as well apply it before I change my mind and shoot you.”
“So, this energy thing, what’s it for?”
“It’s for a long range teleport, Clyde.”
Smithy froze, the nozzle of the shot inches away from the back of his hand. His eyes flew to the monitor and his heart sank when grainy footage of his friends encapsulated the screen. They were in the other room.
“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” Ozmo chittered darkly, reaching for the gun he had discarded earlier.
“Wait!” a panicked Smithy cried out. “Let me talk to them! They’re only here because of the energy trail!”
“Fine,” Ozmo replied easily, a little too easily. “Go on! Before I shoot you!”
Smithy quickly scuttled out, his chest tightening with effort. Ozmo watched him leave. When he was sure he was alone, he cackled, spinning to activate the portal.
“Fools, the lot of them!”
“I am so very sorry.” Smithy stammered as he crashed through the door, to the gang’s surprise. “Oh, here.” He tossed the sonic lipstick over to Sarah Jane. “Am I forgiven now?”
“You!” Clyde cried out, attempting to lunge at him. “Who do you think you are?!”
“Clyde, stay back!” Rani ordered, struggling to hold him back.
“Smithy, what are you doing?” Sarah Jane asked, her tone demanding answers. “I want answers. Now.”
“Well, there’s this alien called Ozmo- he’s the one who made me human- who said he was human and needed help and he offered to make me human. I really wanted to be human, I love it! Much better than being a Xylok and so I would just help him out and-” Smithy paused his diatribe and cringed. “...and that sounded much better in my head.”
“You know there’s quite a hefty penalty for assisting felons.”
The group spun around to find Kai watching them, swinging his knife casually. The air became tenser, and Rani pulled Sky closer towards her instinctively.
“Oh, not you!” Sarah Jane growled. “I thought we had a deal!”
“We did. How about we call it a tie and be done with it?” Kai asked, stalking forward before Sarah Jane could respond. “You could get put in the prison on the Shadow Proclamation, ‘Smithy’, or the poison planet Mebuki. So many options: what do you do to a felon? All these options, but it doesn’t matter. They need Ozmo alive, but they never said anything about his grunts.”
“Stop it!” Sky exclaimed, stepping towards Kai defiantly, despite her friend’s cries. “Leave him alone!”
Kai froze, staring straight at the girl. He looked like he had just been slapped. His mouth opened and closed as he tried to formulate words.
Before Kai could continue, the entire warehouse shook unexpectedly, surprising everyone. A deep, pulsating noise reverberated off the walls. A bright light trickled out of the room Smithy had previously exited.
“What’s that?” Rani asked cautiously.
“It’s starting.” Sarah Jane realised with horror. “Come on, we don’t have much time!”
The gang, accompanied by a staggering Smithy and surprisingly silent Kai, entered the main warehouse just before another tremor sent them staggering. Ozmo was by his console, watching them and laughing maniacally.
“Having fun?” the Ozmoid chittered, his mask bouncing sporadically. Kai snapped out of his stupor and growled, launching a knife at the alien. The knife bounced uselessly off a translucent barrier. “You really should’ve known better. Don’t you need me alive?”
“They never said anything about needing you back in one piece!” Kai roared. Ozmo simply cackled in response.
“Ozmo, what are you doing?” Smithy gasped as he staggered again. He suddenly felt very dizzy. “You said you were leaving!”
“Oh, I was just leaving!” Ozmo responded dully. Sarah Jane was less trusting.
“How do we know you’re telling the truth?” she demanded. “You’ve used him like a puppet!”
“Sarah Jane?” Rani called out nervously, her eyes scanning the equipment beside the Ozmoid. “Isn’t that a bit too much for one teleport?”
“Ooh, a know-it-all!” Ozmo gasped dramatically before erupting into another fit of giggles. “She’s right though, I’m not leaving. I’m bringing!”
“What do you mean?” Sarah Jane asked warily.
“Oh, don’t you know?” Ozmo inquired contemptuously. “Has your little buddy been keeping mum? Naughty!”
“I don’t understand.”
“This scuzzy little planet is dull, boring, but it provides excellent slaves. All those tiny little humans and their inability to slow their reproduction cycle- it’s perfect!”
“What, you want to turn us into slaves?” Clyde spluttered. "Even kids?!"
“Not just me!” Ozmo giggled darkly. “There are loads of creatures that have a grudge with this miserable pit stop of a planet. Who says I need to have all the fun? I’m fine with just killing the odd humans now and then!”
“I understand now.” Sarah Jane whispered, the truth dawning on her. “You’ve made Mr Smith human so he can’t monitor the skies and keep hostiles away- well, the ones that listen anyway! That’s why you gave him the permanent serum!”
“This is insane.” Clyde growled.
“I won’t let you do this!” Sarah Jane cried out defiantly, shattering the force field with the correct frequency from the sonic lipstick. She ran for the controls.
“Oh no you don’t!” Ozmo cried out, pulling out his gun and pointing it directly at her head. “One more step and I fry you! And don’t think I haven’t forgotten, shadow boy!”
A barrier of energy trapped Kai. The man growled, slamming his fist against the imposing wall to no avail.
The room shook vigorously, sending Smithy toppling into Clyde and Rani, who grudgingly held him upright.
“I hope you’re pleased.” Rani scowled, glaring down at Smithy’s dusty brown hair. “For someone who’s so clever, you have no common sense!”
“Is that what all that stuff with my mother was?” Clyde demanded furiously. “A cheap test for all your new emotions?”
“No, it isn’t like that!” Smithy wheezed, clutching onto the shot and attempting to support his own weight. His insistence was falling on deaf ears. “I want to live life, she does too, you told me! I want to be human...I’m just starting to live…”
“If you take that shot, you’ll be a slave! Just like us!” Sky reasoned urgently. “You can’t do this! You’ll be making Mrs Langer a slave!”
In a split second, Smithy knew what he had to do. Stumbling to his feet, he clumsily threw the shot, which collided with Ozmo’s face. The shot exploded in a burst of crackles, obscuring the Ozmoid’s face as he howled in terror, firing his weapon rapidly.
“Get down!” Sarah Jane ordered, running back and pulling her younger compatriots to safety. Smithy did not stop. He staggered his way to the control panel, narrowly missing a beam of energy that barely signed his face. He pushed the weapon out of the alien’s hand and collapsed by the console.
“Smithy, what are doing?!” Sky cried out.
“It doesn’t matter what I want.” Smithy muttered. “I have a primary purpose. Given to me by Sarah Jane. To protect and defend the Earth! You made me forget that!” Smithy roared as he pulled the diamond out of the teleport unit and tossing it over to Sarah Jane. Alarms started to blare and the teleport sparked and exploded.
“You fool!” Ozmo cried out. “You removed the reflector crystal! It’s gonna explode! We’re going to die and it’s all your fault!”
“Well, that makes my job easier.” Kai muttered.
“Clyde- promise me. Look after your mother.” Smithy pleaded. “I won’t feel for her after this. I won’t even know how I felt. Listen, all of you, I’m glad this happened- because life’s for living- and don’t any of you forget it! Goodbye!”
With his speech complete, Smithy plunged his hands into the console. Sarah Jane’s eyes flew to the screen. The Xylok crystal fluttered across the screen and settled, triumphant. A bright white light encapsulated the warehouse and Sarah Jane squeezed her eyes shut.
When she next opened them, the Xylok crystal was sat on the console, shining its array of colours victoriously. The blaring alarms ceased and a pregnant pause washed over the room.
Sarah Jane held her breath. Waiting, hoping.
“Attention, attention,” Mr Smith’s monotone voice rung out and Sarah Jane let out a whoop of joy. “This is Earth, Mr Smith speaking. You will disregard any previous message. Earth is defended. Refusal to comply will be met with resistance. This is your one, final warning. Any hostile action will be repelled.”
“We did it!” Sky cheered, bouncing onto her feet.
“Mr Smith’s a crystal again!” Rani gasped.
“Never mind that, look at him!” Clyde exclaimed, pointing at the crumpled Ozmo. The alien staggered to his feet, noticeably human.
“It is apparent that Ozmo was telling the truth about the dose. The mutagen has affected his biology permanently. He is trapped as a human.”
“NO!” Ozmo cried out. “Such a backwards species! This is all your fault!” he attempted to lunge at Sarah Jane. Before he could get close, Kai wrapped his arm around the former Ozmoid's neck and dragged him back.
“I wouldn’t try it.” the mercenary sneered. “With your galactic criminal record, I don’t think you’re gonna be lasting too long wherever you go.”
“I have a teleport pending for the Shadow Proclamation outpost in Krulka 9.” Mr Smith established. Kai nodded resolutely.
“Maybe I was wrong about you after all.” the man noted.
“You got what you deserved!” Sky declared, glaring at Ozmo. The former Ozmoid stumbled, staring at her with wide eyes.
“You! You stay away from me…!” Ozmo squawked. “Can’t you see who she is? Why isn’t she being-”
Kai handcuffed Ozmo and threw him into the blue fissure that materialised near the charred console.
“He talks too much.” Kai growled.
“What did he mean?” Sky asked worriedly.
“Don’t listen to him Sky, it was probably another lie.” Rani assured her.
“Well, Miss Smith, it was a pleasure,” Kai saluted jauntily, “But galactic duties call, even if I don't want to be the one to deal with them.”
“Listen to me, Kai.” Sarah Jane urged. “You don’t have to work for the Shadow Proclamation if you don’t want to. I have a friend, he could help-”
“No, no.” Kai sighed sadly, twirling his knife aimlessly. “You don’t understand. I have to, but it’s fine, for now. I pay my penance and act as their ambassador/assassin and they shorten my prison sentence. Plus, I get to visit Earth in my leisure time.”
“Wait, you’ve been here before?” Rani interrupted.
“Yup," Kai drawled. “It’s hideous and boring but it has its moments.”
“Why are you in their prison?” Sarah Jane inquired.
“A stupid mistake,” Kai muttered, rubbing his arm absentmindedly. “A stupid war, stupid mistake- everything about it was stupid. As long as it’s not Stormcage, I don’t mind working as their veiled slave.”
Sarah Jane nodded, moving towards the Xylok crystal embedded in the console. Clyde and Rani joined her but Kai held Sky back and bent down to talk to her. He noted the curiosity and lack of fear in the girl’s eyes. He also noted something else. Something that made his blood run cold and goosebumps grow on his flesh.
“You must be strong.” He whispered. Sky looked at him, confused. Plark the Skullion had told her the same thing. Before Sky could demand an answer, the cryptic Kai snapped his fingers and disappeared.
“Mr Smith, I need you!”
Everything happened as they normally did. The chimney opened itself, a burst of exhaust that ruffled her hair, that horrible fanfare, and the supercomputer, Mr Smith, the screensaver dancing across the screen as it often did.
“All systems are functioning normally, Sarah Jane.” Mr Smith informed the journalist. Sarah Jane nodded happily, hugging herself in joy.
“How do you feel, Mr Smith?” Sky asked, sitting next to Rani on the attic steps.
“Yeah, what’s it like being a crystal after being human?” Rani added.
“My functions were temporarily impaired but I have recollection of the events. The Ozmoid known as Ozmo attempted to convert the population of humanity into slaves for himself and several notable aliens who have a long-term grudge on the Earth and its inhabitants.”
"Is that it?" Sky frowned sadly.
“Right, that’s enough talk,” Sarah Jane declared, turning to Sky and holding out her hand. Sky accepted the gesture. “We have to return the diamond. We’re off to the police station”
“Okay, see you soon.” Rani nodded.
The Smith women soon left, leaving Rani alone in the attic with Mr Smith. She stared at the monitor, biting her lip. Maybe she had been a little hypocritical when she yelled at Clyde. He wasn't the only one who spent lonely evenings talking to Mr Smith. Rani had often regaled him with tales of Danemouth, how she missed Sam, her thirst for adventure and...and she had to check. She had to make sure.
“Mr Smith...has Clyde ever...said anything...about me?” Rani asked slowly, struggling to find the words.
“That information is not relevant, Rani.” Mr Smith stated bluntly. Rani chuckled.
“You really are back to normal, aren’t you?” she smiled forlornly. It was worth a shot. Maybe it had all been a lie.
“I’m telling you, mum, he had to leave!” Clyde insisted. The Langer duo were throwing the bins bags out That was how it had all started. They had been taking the bins out when Smithy strolled up the drive with his insufferable silence and changed everything. Whether it was for better or worse, Clyde couldn't quite decide, though he was beginning to lean towards the latter.. “It was an emergency!”
“Bet it was.” Carla scoffed. “A younger, prettier emergency.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it. Not like it’s the first time, but it’s definitely the last.”
Clyde froze, heartbroken.
He had to do something.
“Don’t worry, I said your goodbyes.” Clyde told Mr Smith later on in the attic. Sky was over at Rani’s and Sarah Jane was following up on a case.
“I’m afraid I do not understand, Clyde.” Mr Smith informed him.
“Tell me what you know about Carla Langer.”
“Carla Langer is your mother,” the computer replied smoothly, streaming information on the monitor. “She was born Carla Nicole Dixon in Brentford, Middlesex. She is a human female, age 35...she has one sister, Melba Colleen Dixon and was formerly married to Paul Langer.”
“Is that all?”
“Again, I do not understand.”
“You did,” Clyde replied, “You really did, and I found a way to let her know.”
“Thank you,” Carla smiled as she accepted the large bouquet of flowers. She closed the door, and noticed a note nestled between the carnations. She plucked it up and read:
“To my wonderful Carla. I’m so sorry, I can’t tell you why but I had to leave, and I can’t be with you. I’ll never forget you. Love always, Smithy. Oh, and always remember- life’s for living!”
Carla allowed the tears to flow freely from her face. Just this once.